About Multilingual Web Sites and Optimization

I remember about 10 to 12 years ago a very sharp gal had a news letter dedicated mostly to SEO concepts and I learned a number of things from her and her approach to the riddles of what is right, what is white and how not to lose your PR or page or whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. Actually about 18 years ago when I started designing web sites I went to the pages of the Gods, IBM, Microsoft, Norton, Intel, etc. and found they were not worried because they were so famous they didn’t and still don’t have to depend on Search Engines to be found. Therefore, they did whatever they pleased. I came from an orderly background working with UNIX in 1969 and with IBM Mainframes after that. Well the short of the long story is I finally learned what it meant to Optimize a web site for the Search Engines and actually spent a few years teaching Web Design and Optimization at the Universities in South America. I happen to be multilingual and I have a good education in engineering, science and medicine.

Then came the day I realized I did not know how to SEO a multilingual website. Now that was rough on the ego and a page I had just converted from English to Spanish, English, Italian and French dropped its position by 8 pages and went from a PR of 4 to a 0. Therefore, that is how this treatise or blog came about. So here we go, everyone has his or her opinions but in this area, I suggest you read it well, it is the result of nearly a thousand clients with multilingual pages. Ideally, if you are going to have a multilingual site it would be best to have separate domains and completely separate files. Now that’s not always possible but I did separate when I could by using a.com and a.net and when I couldn’t each language has its own folder under the principal language including copies of the Images and all other sub folders. Therefore, each language looks like a different site. Why you ask? Is it necessary to go to that extreme? Well it has to do with two things; first, the spiders or robots are unilingual. They speak the language assigned in the Metas at the head of the page and you had better have the language specified. If you have another language on the page you had better have it in quotes or brackets so the robot will ignore it otherwise when it cannot recognize the words, it stops reading. Meaning the rest of the text is useless. Secondly the SE’s are different for each language. German for example is Google.de not Google.com, each language has its own version of the search engines. Of course, it should be obvious that your keywords in English are meaningless in Spanish and so on, so you have to rewrite the Metas for each language including the Title, Description, Language, Keywords, Key Phrases. I do hope you are starting to see the picture. You cannot merge two languages into one site unless you separate them as I have mentioned. Do not try to use a common Images, PHP, CGI or Java file, a unique one in the folder for its own language. That also saves you from confusing the URL of your site. The sub folder names should be titled as short as possible using a Keyword from that language if possible. Once inside the Metas clearly specify the language and the SE’s and the visitor is at home. This probably a good time to mention canonical links though I am sure you all use one up in the header. Remember we all have the habit these days of not using the www or the http but did you know that Google and other SE’s treat each variation of that URL as a separate URL. It is simple enough to cure and not lose all the good brownie points, just add a canonical link (you have to look it up if you don’t know it, most sites won’t let me include it since it’s HTML code) and now the SE’s know that all variations are in fact the real URL as shown. Took me a while to figure that one out and yes each language page will have its own index and in its header will be its canonical link. Now each language will have its own PR and Page position in the SE’s.

No offense to PHP friends but I still do not suggest that the first page, the Index be a PHP. I hold that it should be a clean HTML5 index and please do use the code to identify which system you are using, even PHP has fun with code from version 4 not working in version 5. Old Java code is not working in the new browsers giving a message of unsigned code. Now of course we have to research our keywords and if you are not proficient in the second languages then get some help and if you or someone else translates the page from English to say Spanish make certain that the person doing it is current with the language. There are many variations of Spanish but there is a universal common form but change is constant. I translated an Andes Mountain climbing web site in German to attract German tourists to South America, I did my search on keywords and grammar checks, and spelling checks, all was perfect. So I sent it to a tour guide friend of mine in Germany for his comments, I had been stationed in Germany for almost two years in Heidelberg and spoke fluent German. My friend called me on the phone, was still laughing, and said there was no way he could put all of his laughs in an email. He said your German is letter perfect for 20 years ago and it is perfect High German but in advertising, we do not use the formal language we have a new version that is more common. This is true for all languages, if I’m speaking to some one I still use the formal version as a sign of respect but when I’m writing I loosen my belt do a draft and run it by someone from there not some one who was there 20 years ago. It is true for all of the languages, believe me I just made a tour 2 years ago and was amazed at the changes and the informality, in advertising they speak to you as if you were a member of their family not as if you are a stranger.

I won’t bother going into a long tirade about correct grammar, spelling and accents. As a French speaker, I am highly annoyed if someone writes to me without accents. We do not demand as much in English as they do in other languages. Proofread and proofread again. There are a number of excellent programs to check spelling and grammar and usage and they are better than Microsoft Word. If you’re going to work multilingual, invest in the tools you need and find some friends overseas. Try LinkedIn.com, I have and have friends around the world. When I do a site in more than one language, I usually change the background colors for each language and often choose different photos for the first page trying to be more in tune with that speakers taste. Don’t know? Go fishing in Google and visit similar sites in other countries it’s amazing how different we are and if you tell time, date or temperature remember to change to the format and style of that language. For heaven’s sake remember to use icons, buttons, and menu tabs in the correct language and don’t use home or back, it is offensive. Yes, sorry about that, it means you have to redo your menu codes and if you have as much text as you should then pay attention to indentation rules in each language. Also, if you’re interested in your copyright statement, it’s different in other languages. E-mail may be a universal word but it’s [correo] in Spanish not Email. Your visitor must feel that you are a neighbor speaking to him, show your best side and go the extra mile. Well now, as we all know there is a lot more to do for the SEO of a website and that I leave in your able hands.

I do not do Sexual, Pornographic, Gambling, Dating or Escort sites; if you do, the language is very special. Now one note about internal links in these sites, do not link to the short address, I suggest the full URL address for each page and graphic and the return links as well. Remember on each index page to offer a link to the other languages titled in their respective language. Getting external links can be very difficult especially in the beginning. We all struggle with obtaining good relevant links. Yes, I use the Text in the Alt of graphics for key messages or key words thinking of the robot. Last but not least, remember a separate sitemap for each language. Using the above guides and general good SEO techniques I have maintained one site on first page of Google with a PR4 since 1998 and suffered no hiccups when Google changes their algorithms. That site is for a small town in Venezuela, South America but it’s a number one site in all of South America for tourism.

Evaluating Website

How friendly is the website?

Does the site feel welcoming? Are the benefits of visiting made immediately clear? Is the content written using an informal, conversational style and tone? Is white space used throughout the site to make it seem less busy and easier to scan?

Does it communicate everything it needs to?

Is it clear what purpose the site serves? Is it immediately clear who the site’s intended audience is? Are you communicating what your audience is interested in? Is the site consistent in design (colour, layout, fonts)?

How relevant is the content?

Is the copy focused on what your audience wants to know? Does the site quickly convince the visitor that they have come to the right place and give good reason to stay? Is it obvious what actions you want the audience to take?

What about navigation?

Does the website have a logical structure? Is navigation intuitive, easy, clear and trouble free? Does every page link back to the home page? Are the links visible? Can you get to any other page in no more than three clicks? Is there a search option (important for large and ecommerce websites)?

Design quality?

Is the design simple, attractive, invited and customer orientated? Does it deliver the correct emotional tone? Can you immediately tell where you are (Clear title, description, images, captions etc.)? Does it grab and hold your attention? Have you used the top of the page for navigation and brand identity?

Copy quality and readability?

Is the content clear, relevant, concise and grammatically correct? Does it deliver the right emotional tone? Have you kept to one font size? are you using a sans-serif typeface? Is all information up to date? Are all mandatory requirements included?

How good is the marketing?

Is the site’s proposition crystal clear? Is the message simple, concise and customer focused? Has the site been checked for search engine optimisation? Is a clear and consistent brand identity projected?

Accessibility?

Has the site been checked on the most common browsers? Has it been checked on older versions of the browsers? Has it been checked on a range of screen sizes? What does it look like on a tablet or a mobile phone? Does the homepage load instantly?

Consistency in Website Design

A Real-World Analogy

Analogies between the real world and websites are rarely useful, but in making the case for consistency in website design value can be gained from comparing, as an example, an e-commerce website with a “bricks and mortar” chain of stores. Imagine if each store in a chain had different branding or different color-schemes, furnishings or floor layouts. This would not lend itself to building brand identity or loyalty – and the same can be said about a lack of consistency in your website’s design. For the purposes of this article, the term “website design” refers to the branding and layout of pages of your website.

Branding Consistency

Your website design should emulate your organization’s existing branding guidelines (where applicable), including your logo, color-scheme, the spacing between elements on the page, font styles and size, icon style and size, image styles and form styles. These should be consistent across your website – a lack of branding consistency immediately portrays your organization as being unprofessional. Consistent branding creates a unified feel, which not only tells your visitors that they are still browsing your website, but also re-enforces your brand identity by repeatedly exposing your visitors to it.

Layout Consistency

The layout of your website includes the positioning of your text content, headings, images, navigation menus, search box, newsletter sign-up box and other elements. It is important that some of these elements be the same on every page of your website, but there is some flexibility with regards to other elements.

A study by Forrester Research estimated that around 50% of potential sales are lost because website visitors can’t find the information they want, and a study by Zona Research found that 62% of online shoppers have given up looking for an item they wanted to buy. If your website’s navigation menu is poorly designed to start with, then consistency is not going to help. Your website should be organized in a hierarchical structure that provides feedback to the user as to where they are on your website by highlighting their position on your navigation menu, using “breadcrumbs” and changing hyperlink styles or colors for visited links. You should also make sure that your anchor text on links are descriptive so that visitors know exactly what to expect when they click on a link.

If your website’s navigation already allows your visitors to quickly find the information they want then you should maintain this ease-of-use throughout your website. Since every website is different, website visitors have to familiarize themselves with the layout and navigation structure of your website in order to use it – and consistency in your website’s navigation structure means that they will have to do this only once. If your website’s navigation menu varies throughout your website, your visitors will take longer to find what they want and will inevitably lose interest and go elsewhere.

Other elements of your website’s layout that should be consistent throughout your website include your search box and newsletter sign-up box. There is, however, room to be a little more flexible in the layout of the rest of your web pages. For example, it stands to reason that your product pages will have a different layout to your article or “About Us” pages, but be sure to be consistent with the branding of these different layouts.

Improving Website Performance

Beauty and Design

First impressions are visual in nature. Customers may like or dislike something in seconds – just by how it looks. It applies especially to websites.. It all begins with beauty, design and clarity. A beautifully designed website can be a monetarily effective mechanism to enhance traffic to a website and increase lead generation. In contrast, a badly designed website encourages the user leave the page even before it loads completely. This can result in lost business potential.

Design Compatibility

With enhanced penetration of mobile technology, more and more users are accessing website over their smart phones and tablets. A website’s performance is no longer limited to desktop.

How responsive and compatible a design is over slew of physical devices defines a website’s design ability. If a business lacks to provide a mobile friendly website to its customers, it is falling behind its competitors. To stay current with the times, most of the well established businesses have beautifully crafted, clear and responsive mobile friendly websites designs.

Analysis of User Behavior

Paying attention to site’s performance through regular supervision and revision is advised. For enhanced user engagement it is essential to use Google Analytics on a regular basis to analyze user behavior.

This involves studying customer’s navigation pattern and actions on various site pages. Working over visitor data gives insight into what users like about the site. Heat maps of the website can be generated through various tools which provide data on clicks.

What do they do and which pages are left unattended? Do the blog and content pages have acceptable readability? Are the goals of setting a website are in line with a visitor’s goal? Such questions aid in improvement and visitor re-engagement.

Crisp Communication

Users visiting a website have various levels of attention. To cater to different level of interest it is important to communicate in a manner which is catches and holds users interest. Using appropriate font, comprehensible content and mix and match of graphics, images and text makes the communication more effective.

Instead of hovering around the subject, to the point messages should be communicated quickly and creatively. Instead of using superfluous language filled with self-praise, content should have genuine solutions to questions a visitor might have.

For example a restaurant’s website should offer, very clearly, what a visitor might seek on its website. Menu list, feasible hours, location, weekly and daily specials, promotional coupons, online ordering and catering links should be displayed as the very first view option. It should clearly display its mobile App (if available) for download to enable the users to order conveniently.

Content is the King

A website with the same old look and feel creates monotony and reduces return frequency. People don’t want to look at the same content over and over again. Freshness of content is what any visitor craves.This requires updating the home page and other landing pages with up-to date content.

For example, any website designing and software development business has little scope for regular variability in design. These companies makes it a point to update the content through fresh and current blogs, articles and industry knowledge. Their products and services landing page regularly add more information about the recent development in company’s engineering and development process. Graphics and images are updated on home page as well as the layered landing pages to add freshness to the website. Big or small, changes are added to the website for capturing user interest.

Multiple social plug-ins enable sharing of content by site visitors which not only optimizes the website across search engines but also acts marketing messengers for the company.

Build A Competitive Website

Have you not seen plain-looking sites including big search engines that are very successful? There are clearly other web design areas that need to be addressed by the website designer. Usability is one of these areas. It is all about helping your visitors access the information they need to take the action you want. In order to ensure usability you should know the purpose you have for the site. Do you want to provide products, services or information through your web portal?

This is the question you want to answer prior to creating a usable website. Besides usability you must focus on creating an informative site. Whether you want to sell something or just educate people, content is king. Web visitors look to read about a service or a product prior to making a decision to buy it. A few sentences on the main page are not adequate. Your web design expert should take the time to write and publish a page that gives a detailed listing of features of each service or product you have.

Visitors do not only want an informative page. They also want it to be easily accessible. Pages that inform the customers about the things you sell must be the easiest to find. One trick that always works is putting crucial information right under their noses. If you do not overcrowd your main page, then a link to a page that offers extra details should work just fine. A site that is easy to navigate is extremely important. Good web designers are aware of the importance of creating a good navigational system.

Because you will not always get a web user who is experienced with internet usage, have the navigation bar set across all pages. By so doing you will remove confusion in the user’s mind and encourage them to obey your call to action. Visitors will also appreciate short cuts to different spots. Instead of forcing them to get back to the home page to visit another page on your site, place direct URL links on all places you consider logical.

Another thing I should mention concerning navigation menus is about avoiding issues that would make your navigation system difficult to use. For instance, it is a good idea to avoid making your navigation bar dependent on given browsers only. For visitors who probably do not have JavaScript, try to offer an alternative way for them to access your site. Finally if you want to run a site that has many pages, you may provide an internal site search engine tool. It will assist people find what they want with ease.

Improve And Create Sales Leads

Designing an attractive website

The website designed and developed for a company must have information about the company and the products or services provided by the company. The website should also be easier to navigate for the website visitors. It is good to get customer information by placing a form which should consist of queries regarding their needs.

Email auto-responder

Customers will be provided with an optional option which will ask for your email address if you are interested in receiving auto-responder emails from the company in the future regarding the latest launch of their products or any discounts for their products. Companies can attract customers for auto-responder emails by providing them with a free product or product discounts.

Include tell-a-friend script

By including a code that would allow the site visitors to even add their friends for the auto-responder emails, those friends will also receive email about your website which can help improve the sales leads of the products offered by your company.

Using social networking websites for promoting business

Website owners can create their own pages in the social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn as a means to promote business. When a customer became a friend or fan on your company page in the particular social networking website, all of the users within their network will learn about your business page and the products or services it provides.

Using news sites for promoting business

Publish a press release on some well know news sites. Express the unique points that make your company different from others and the content for Press Release must be simpler too. Choose the news sites that allow you to place a link that directs the site visitors towards your website page.

Offline Generation

  • Participate in trade shows that are relevant to your industry. It is also an opportunity to provide visitors in the show with a hands-on experience regarding the products or services offered by your business.
  • Placing advertisements of your company within local newspapers or radio stations is another common way of generating sales leads. The ads can help readers to give a call to one of your sales representatives or can help them visit your website.
  • Direct mails are still one of the most preferred methods of enhancing the sales leads. Take in to consideration the demographics and the income level of the people before sending mails to them. The emails must be sent for the right kind of audiences and thereby increasing the chances of generating sales leads.

 

About Emotion in Design

Foundation of good design

A couple of things form the foundation of any good design, whether the design is emotional or not. Why are we talking about the foundation of a design here? Think of the construction of a house. First, you need a solid foundation; then, you can start to plan the division of space and build walls. In Web design it’s the same; you need to know your internal design goals, who your users are and in what context they will use your website. Once this groundwork is done, you can get started on the design.

Internal design goals

Before you get started on anything, ask yourself what your own goals are. This does not mean you should put yourself at the center of attention for the rest of the process, but it is important to know what image you want to communicate, what your values and visions are, and how you want others to see you. With this knowledge at hand, you are armed to be very clear and consistent not only in your actions, but also in your appearance. A certain amount of continuity and predictability adds to your reliability, which is important for getting people to commit to a relationship with you.

Prospective users

Know who you are designing for. Your future users will be the people who purchase and use your product or website, so make sure you know what they want. General demographics will give you a rough picture of who you are targeting. By drawing a clear picture of their goals, how they are going to use your website, and what matters and doesn’t matter to them, you will learn how to target your users. Without knowing your prospective users, designing something relevant that is both usable and pleasurable will be quite tricky.

Context of use

Finally, think about the context of use. Knowing the situations and circumstances in which users will be visiting your website is valuable. Consider possible emotions that might be involved, and find out which role you and your users play. Be aware that knowing the context of use will make it easier for you to understand your users the moment they visit your website. It will help you reach out to your customers and to communicate with them more effectively.

How to invoke emotion?

There are a number of different avenues taken to implement successful emotion in design. We can target emotion in the company – identify the emotional qualities of the business and its products or service. At what level does the business stand out from competition? Does the company have a heartfelt story? Who runs the company, and do they have a story? We can target emotion in the market – how do you connect with your customers and satisfy their needs? Market positive emotions. This may be done by inciting mystery, curiosity, hope or anticipation. Play on their heartstrings with negative emotions such as fear, frustration or need. We target emotion in ourselves as the designers – put your personal touch into design, your attitude, experience and emotion. Who are you designing for? How do you connect with them? How can you make that important click? Namely, identify the qualities associated with yourself and your client, their uniqueness and make them appear inimitable.

Relationships: sex, family and life matters

Designing a concept, product or service can be paralleled to building a human relationship; a friendship, a marriage or a family bond. Building rapport with your consumer base is the most important take-home message for any designer. Building trust, dependence and confidence in a relationship are the keys to making it prosperous. Emotionally manipulating consumers is a quick fix strategy often employed by start-ups, but a technique that will only give short-term success if you cannot keep up rapport. Design must be genuine, or else the consumer will move onto a successive superficial fix or look beyond you to find something long-term and guaranteed.

Building relationships with empathy, sympathy and sentimentality – grasping emotion

So, from our analogy between building relationships and designs we can see how important it is to be honest, welcoming and determined to pull through with the service you provide. Emotion in design is not intangible but you must think beyond simple feelings and grasp deeper and meaningful thought. You may start with simpler emotion such as fear, love, anger or pride but always strive to dig deeper to emotion such as empathy, sentimentality, tenderness, protectiveness or sympathy. The more you delve, the more distinctive and specified you become, the more efficacious, overwhelmed and heartfelt your transmission will be.

Convey your message with deep emotion and connect with integrity. Although you must show empathy to your client you must also be able to critique, be a cynic and be honest. Be moved by the concepts you are building, explore the mindset of your client, be as thrilled with the product or service as your client is, share their excitement.

Insanely Design Sites for Creating Content

PicMonkey

Although more of a photo editor, PicMonkey gives you the ability to add in design elements such as text, graphics, and textures. They don’t have as many design options as Canva, but they’re still easy to use and have plenty of photo editing elements.

Easel.ly

Easel.ly is mostly templates for infographics. You choose the design you want and then you fill in your information – presto, you have yourself a professional looking infographic! But Easel.ly can be used for more than just infographics. Pick a design and edit it any way you want. That means you could make that design into a flyer, poster, or visual content.

Pixlr

Also more of a photo editor than a design program, Pixlr is reminiscent of Adobe Photoshop. It packs plenty of filters to apply to your images. Like Photoshop, you can draw on your images, smooth them, smudge them, blur them, draw shapes, and apply text.

YouiDraw

YouiDraw gives you three options to choose from; Drawing, Logo Creator, and Painting. Drawing gives you templates for banners, buttons, infographics, business cards, gift cards, advertising, invitations, posters, t-shirts, and more. Logo Creator creates vector logos, icons, and web elements. Paint, on the other hand, is just that, a paint program. You can upload a photo and use brushes to paint, add text, or draw shapes.

Creating Functional Website Design

Make navigation easy and quick

You would want to have clear and concise drop down menus. It pays off to show the user’s path to the respective page so that going back is easier and faster. It is best if you use the same type of style and colour for all buttons which the users can click on. This will not only help users to find their way around more quickly. They will find it convenient to make payments and provide information and this will certainly make them come back.

Use graphics and images to enhance user experience

When users scroll down a web page, they want to find the things which they are looking for easily and quickly. If you use primarily text, you may ruin the experience for users. The use of graphics and images will make browsing through the website easier and more convenient. You can readily achieved a unified and elegant look as well.

Give users in-store experience

It is always a good idea to create a website design with a traditional store in mind. This will help you with creating the different product categories and with making visitors feel comfortable. Create categories based on product type, features, specifications and use. It is best not to put a single product in several categories as this can create confusion. If users can select from several options for getting to the product which they want, you should start with the most general categories such as model and then get down to the more specific ones like colour.